According to an administrative order on Thursday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) levied a fine on the broker-dealer subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase $4 million for mistakenly deleting around 47 million emails from early 2018.
The SEC order against J.P. Morgan Securities LLC mentioned that several of the deleted emails were asked for by subpoenas in at least a dozen regulatory probes, but could no longer be retrieved.
The order said that others “could relate to potential future investigations, legal matters and regulatory inquiries.”
The emails, which were mistakenly deleted in 2019, were from and to about 8,700 email boxes, which comprised those of up to 7,500 employees who had regular contact with Chase customers.
According to the order, several of the emails were “business records required to be retained pursuant” to federal securities law..
J.P. Morgan Securities gave consent to the SEC sanction, which also censured the firm.
The firm had sent a settlement offer in anticipation of administrative proceedings related to the deletions, and the SEC agreed to that offer.
The SEC also commanded the company to “cease and desist from committing any future violations” of the securities law requiring broker-dealers to reinstate for at least three years the originals of all communications.
This is the third incident when the investment advisor has agreed to punishment for failing to preserve electronic records.
In late 2021, the firm accepted to pay $125 million in fines for failing to restore text messages and other electronic communications sent between January 2018 and November 2020.
In 2005, the firm paid $700,000 in fines for not retaining electronic records from mid-1999 to mid-2002.
JPMorgan spokeswoman Patricia Wexler refused to comment on the L most recent sanction.
In its order Thursday, the SEC stated JPMorgan in 2016 initiated a project “to delete from its system older communications and documents no longer required to be retained.”
Those messages comprised old emails, instant messages and communications that were sent forth to the Bloomberg terminal service.
But there were “glitches” in the project, “with the identified documents not, in fact, being expunged,” the order mentioned.
In June 2019, when troubleshooting that issue, employees of the firm “executed deletion tasks on electronic communications from the first quarter of 2018,” the order declared.
Those employees “erroneously” affirmed — based on beliefs by the firm’s archiving vendor — that all of those documents were coded in a way to prevent the permanent deletion of those records that were neede by law to be kept for three years, the order stated
“In fact, however, the vendor did not apply the default retention settings in a particular email domain,” the order said.
“And those communications, including many required to be maintained pursuant to the broker-dealer recordkeeping rules, were permanently deleted.”
According to the order, the deleted mails were found out in October 2019, when a JPMorgan team responsible for producing records related to legal cases detected that emails were missing from early 2018.
In January 2020, JPMorgan reported the deletions to the SEC.
The order noted that, “In at least twelve civil securities-related regulatory investigations, eight of which were conducted by the [SEC] Commission staff, JPMorgan received subpoenas and document requests for communications which could not be retrieved or produced because they had been deleted permanently.”
And, the order added, “JPMorgan notified only one of the eight investigative teams at the Commission that its production in response to the subpoenas had been compromised by the 2019 deletion event.”
The order also stated that since the deleted communications “are unrecoverable, it is unknown – and unknowable – how the lost records may have affected the regulatory investigations.”
Moreover, a member of JPMorgan’s compliancd department mentioned in an internal email post the deletions came to light that “lost documents could relate to potential future investigations, legal matters and regulatory inquiries,” as prescribed in the SEC order.